Posts Tagged ‘anti-colonial’

Tan Jing Quee, who passed away on 14 June 2011, was a frequent contributor to s/pores. He wrote for our inaugural issue quite by chance, when two s/pores members had just got to know him then, and learnt that he had written obituaries for his friends Linda Chen Mong Hock (1928-2002), and Usman Awang (1929-2001). He was hesitant about letting us publish them, concerned that the new e-journal would attract unwelcome attention from the authorities by associating with him, a former political detainee (1963-1966; 1977), and one who had not avoided a public profile. In 2006, Tan Jing Quee and Michael Fernandez had spoken as former political detainees who were among the more than a hundred people detained in Operation Cold Store and the subsequent Operation Pechah at the Singapore Arts Festival fringe event Detention-Writing-Healing. The event drew a good-sized audience and received press coverage. The Ministry of Home Affairs then issued a rebuke of the two men in the Straits Times Forum, in the form of the oft-repeated but never substantiated litany that they took part in communist subversion and were detained for threatening the security, stability and economic well-being of Singapore, and not for holding different political views or pursuing lawful, democratic political activities.

As it happened, Ho Piao, a former long-serving political detainee died in February 2007 in England where he lived since 1986. Jing Quee had to concede to our argument that s/pores was the most efficacious place for Singaporeans and others to read about the life of this little-known trade unionist who was detained in Operation Cold Store for eighteen and a half years. Jing Quee wrote an informed, detailed, analytical and sensitive account of the man who was in RB block in Changi Prison with him. He described Ho Piao’s house in Middlesex, which he noted looked like any of the other modest houses on the street, but the furnishing and ambience of the interior was a replica of a Singapore home. He treasured his success in becoming a friend of the family, and being asked by Ho Piao’s children to tell them about their father, on one of his trips to visit them with his wife Rose, where they were house-guests of the family. In 2007, Jing Quee organized a memorial gathering for Ho Piao. Former detainees, Ho Piao’s friends and colleagues turned out in force to remember and honour one of the most resolute of their comrades, at the first such event to be held in Singapore. When Lim Chin Siong passed away in 1996, a huge memorial gathering was organized in Kuala Lumpur, which received wide coverage in the Malaysian Chinese press. At the time, it was not possible for such an event to be held in Singapore.

Throughout his life, Jing Quee consciously made the effort to maintain the friendship of former political detainees, and their children as well, including those who lived in Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Hong Kong and China and various western countries. Aside from developing friendships and fostering group solidarity and mutual help, this was also to draw them into deliberations on the political events which they had lived through. Together with his own experience, observations and research, this also helped him piece together an intricate and uncanny understanding of the political maneuverings and machinations in particular of the 1950s and 1960s.

The first major breakthrough which charted new directions in Singapore history that Jing Quee made was Comet In Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History (2001), which he edited with Jomo K.S. This book has had wide readership, with the chapter by British historian Tim Harper ‘Lim Chin Siong and the Singapore Story’ being most popularly cited for its revealing that Special Branch reports in 1962 stated that there was no evidence that Lim was receiving orders from the Communist Party of Malaya, Peking or Moscow, and that he had consistently kept to a constitutional path. Jing Quee’s essay, ‘Lim Chin Siong—A political life’ charts the milestones in the political development of Singapore in the postwar period, challenging the wisdom that the 1950s was a decade of ‘riot and revolution’. Instead, the thread running through those years was one of mass anti-colonial struggle which was met by repression and colonial duplicity. In this piece, the key elements which were to be elaborated in Jing Quee’s subsequent work were already in place. He noted that the conjunction of two major events in 1954 set the tone and tempo of the new politics that was to emerge: the May 13 incident and the subsequent sit-in by the Chinese middle school students, and the Fajar trial. The ascendency of Lim Chin Siong as a national figure when he was elected as a PAP member of the National Assembly in 1955 galvanized the labour and mass political movement, but also made him the key target of attacks as a communist, which continued through his life. Jing Quee highlighted the fact that Lim Chin Siong and others detained by the Lim Yew Hock government in 1956 and 1957 were prohibited from contesting in Singapore’s first general election in 1959; Operation Cold Store served this purpose in 1963.

Jing Quee’s most insightful observation about Lim Chin Siong was that after he was released from detention in 1959 at the age of 26, his public addresses were more serious and analytical, as befitting the new political situation where Singapore had been given self-government. He spoke less Hokkien and more Mandarin on these occasions. He had learnt English and Malay in prison, and could fraternize with non-Chinese colleagues in the trade union movement with greater ease and confidence. He also pointed out that despite the common impression that the Barisan Socialis of which Lim Chin Siong was the secretary-general was dominated by Chinese speakers, a look at the composition of the party’s Central Executive Committee would show that it comprised predominantly English-educated leftists, including Dr Poh Soo Kai, S Woodhull, James Puthucheary and Dr Lim Hock Siew.

The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the politics of postwar Malaya and Singapore (2010) and The May 13 Generation: The Chinese Middle Schools Student Movement and Singapore politics in the 1950s (2011) of which Jing Quee was an editor and a chapter contributor, developed out of the framework he had built in Comet in the Sky. The Fajar Generation brought back into focus a key component of the left-wing anti-colonial movement: members of the Socialist Club in the University of Malaya (University of Singapore), which cut across ethnic boundaries. While they constituted only a small fraction of the student population in terms of numbers, their strength was in their ability to talk back directly to the colonial government on their own terms, which was particularly effective when they connected with the Chinese middle school students, led trade unions, connected with the Chinese middle school students, and came together in the Barisan Sosialis. Their ranks included individuals who withstood detention for the longest period of time. (One of the articles in our first issue was on the Fajar Trial of 1954, which Jing Quee generously gave comments on)

The counterpart of The Fajar Generation, The May 13 Generation sought to map out the colonial antipathy towards the Chinese middle schools and their students in the Cold War context, and to delineate the nature of the student movement—which was not only political in nature, but also cultural and social. Their understanding of anti-colonialism included the preservation of the Chinese schools and education system, which they saw as a progressive one, in contrast to the English stream secondary schools which to them produced only colonial subjects. It was also the Chinese middle school students who took the lead, along with the trade unionists who graduated from their ranks, in raising issues of the colonial capitalist exploitation, and who worked directly with the disadvantaged and dispossessed, whether they be flood and fire victims, exploited workers, the jobless, or children from impoverished families who had no chance of attending school. They moved towards defining a Malayan literature that addressed these conditions, derived from the tussles and debates with fellow students on the role of art and culture, the definition of the new woman, the concrete realities that they and the vast majority faced of economic survival. The May 13 Generation, as students or union and civil group leaders, were the bulk of those arrested in 1956, the biggest mass arrest of the time, and except for well-known political leaders like Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan, remained in detention despite the coming into power in 1959 of the PAP, of which they were dedicated supporters.

Picture taken in Bangkok, March 2009. The trip was to meet up with He Jin, the author of Ju Lang to seek his permission to translate his roman a clef, into English. The protagonists of the novel are students leaders of the May 13 1954 event, where the Chinese middle school students petitioning the colonial government for exemption from national service were set on by the riot police. This event led to their unprecedented their unity and the middle school students became the vanguards of the anti-colonial movement in Singapore. The Mighty Wave, translated by Tan Jing Quee, Loh Miaw Gong and Hong Lysa was published in May 2011.
Back, from left: Rosemary Tan, Tan Jing Quee
Front, from left: Hong Lysa, Loh Miaw Gong, Su Shi Hua (He Jin's wife) and He Jin.

Jing Quee’s writings arose out of his drive to write the history of the left in Singapore of which he was a part and to call the dominant narrative into account. His writings have not been directly challenged by historians, journalists and other writers who have conveniently ignored them. Yet, it is not inconceivable that the works that he had relentlessly spearheaded may explain the spate of tomes reiterating the authorized position. His writings constitute an inextricable and powerful blend of autobiography, collective biography and history. He made sure that there is a Chinese edition of the books as well, for theirs was a joint mission and a shared legacy. It remains to be seen whether his books will enter the reading lists of Singapore history courses taught in Singapore universities.

Jing Quee’s approach was always to look at the long term, never to rush into things. He once recalled that when he narrowly lost as a Barisan candidate in the 1963 election, his branch workers were upset and bitter, and at their post-mortem meeting repeatedly accused the PAP of resorting to unfair and underhand means. When he was finally asked to make a speech, he told them that the fate of Singapore did not depend on one election result, and that certainly the election had been stacked against them unfairly from the very start. But they should accept the result, and plan to take the next move which would not gain immediate results, but was targeted at the long term. This meant working to build relations with the progressive parties in Malaysia, among other things. This was not what they wanted to hear at the time, and they gave him the cold shoulder.

With his writings, he bid his time, in order to gather sufficient materials, think carefully through his analysis, and await the appropriate time to go public. This was an on-going process in his life. The stream of publications that Jing Quee produced belied the physical challenges that he faced. The deterioration, and eventually the loss of his eyesight meant that he could not read or use the keyboard at all. He would have materials read to him, and would ask for specific points and paragraphs to be keyed in. After mulling through the issues in his head, he would then dictate what he wanted to say in complete sentences (with the word ‘accordingly’ regularly featured at the beginning of a paragraph he was dictating, it was pointed out to him, to his amusement.) He had such intense focus that he could with seeming ease ask for a word to be changed, knowing exactly where it was in the piece after having it read back to him. This could well be a day or two later, or even longer. He also wrote poetry (Love’s Travelogue [2004]; coeditor and contributor, Our Thoughts are Free: Poems and Prose on Imprisonment and Exile [2009]) and wrote short stories (The Chempaka Tree [2009]). His poems have been included in Singapore anthologies (man/born/free: Writings on the Human spirit from Singapore [2011]). It is fitting that as it turned out this issue of s/pores features Alvin Pang’s essay ‘Reclaiming Literature for Singapore’, commissioned by Tan Tarn How and written in 2010, which discusses Jing Quee’s poem, ‘Afternoon’ published in the Rafflesian in 1957.

Jing Quee was above all a warm and thoughtful person. He loved company, young and old. He enjoyed discussing issues related to politics, but was open to any substantive subject of conversation, be it travel, books or BBC radio reports, his regular window to the world. He was generous in sharing what he knew, and supportive of the endeavours of others, especially the younger generation. He had students who had just finished their A levels do bits of research, reading and typing for him, and when he felt that they had interest, would open his world to them, without imposing his views. He readily invited his visitors to share a meal, which his wife Rose would expertly whip up. He was good company, full of life and good cheer. Anyone who knew Rose and Jing Quee would have been impressed by the deep bond between them, which Jing Quee expressed in his poem, ‘Love’s Travelogue’.

Jing Quee once said half-jokingly that he hoped he would not be remembered, if at all, only as the person who lost by 200-odd votes to S Rajaratnam in the 1963 elections. A number of books that mention his name in passing have made reference to this fact.

His own writings reveal a sensitive and bold intellectual dedicated to producing sound, critical history which are devastating to the self-serving narratives that pass off as Singapore’s history.

s/pores remembers our friend, Jing Quee for this and so much more.


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Tan Jing Quee

Originally published in FAJAR: ORGAN OF THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB 1961, volume 3, number 8.

Transcribed by Karen Goh

The statement by Tengku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, on 16th October in the Federal Parliament during the debate on the “merger” proposals and the subsequent turn of events had thrown into bold relief the motivations long ago suspected of those who are now negotiating for a “merger”. The Federation Parliament had given its “mandate” to the Tengku for carrying out the proposals. In Singapore, the White Paper for “merger” has been published, and the Singapore Legislative is likely to endorse the Government’s “plan”. The way is thus clear, as far as the two governments are concerned, for the arrangement. The British has also given the green light to the proposals.

From the whole series of events we can gleam certain definite conclusions:

(1) That the Prime Minister of the Federation does not want a real re-unification between the two territories, in the sense of complete merger with Singapore entering into the Federation as the 12th constituent state. The Tengku has stated this in clear, categorical terms:

“But one thing is certain, and that is that we cannot take Singapore with us in complete merger without a great deal of unhappiness and trouble and so we must find a middle course” (Straits Times, 17/10/61).

(2) That the Tengku favours some sort of constitutional arrangement in a larger Federation of Malaysia, in which Singapore is to be reduced to a mere “partner”:

“What I have in mind is to call such an association or Federation of states the Federation of Malaysia, i.e. all the Federation of Malaya states, the Borneo territories and the Sates of the Federation of Malaya, join in together as a Federation of Malaysia and Singapore is joined in partnership on a footing something like that which exists between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.” (Straits Times 17/10/61).

(3) That the real reason which motivates this move was not a genuine desire for reunification, but to control Singapore’s internal security, and from this to deny Singapore’s citizens the same rights and privileges as other Federal citizens.

Singapore is being treated as a “problem child” (Straits Times 17/11/61, Tengku’s speech). The White Paper, which sets out the heads of agreement for a “merger” speaks of “Equal duties and responsibilities under the Constitution of the larger Federations, “but “Singapore citizens will continue to enjoy their State rights and privileges within Singapore.”

Firstly, on entry into the proposed “merger” Singapore citizens will be asked to shoulder the duties and responsibilities of Federal citizens, but they would have no corresponding rights. They “will continue to enjoy their State rights and privileges within Singapore.” This is untrue. Many of the existing rights which Singapore citizens enjoy, e.g. finance, broadcasting, press and publication, will be placed on the Federal or Concurrent lists (which give the Federal Government the overriding authority). And even those so-called “autonomy” of labour and education are subject to the overall supervisions of “internal security.”Are not the examples of Lim Lian Geok and Said Zahari blatant admissions enough to the mockery of such “autonomy”?

Why does the Tengku reject a re-unification?

To understand this, we must view the curious volte-face on the part of those who had always been antagonistic even at the very mention of “merger.” Had this development been a genuine change of attitude, and is based on a sincere desire to reunify our territories and our people, it would have been widely acclaimed. But the basic motivation is to mount up anti-communist hysteria with the purpose to rush through a freak arrangement whereby socialist strength would be excluded from the constitutional arena in the larger Federation. The way to achieve this is to restrict the democratic rights of the people of Singapore so that they may not be in a position to exert an influence on political trends in the Federation. The Federal Government at the same time can utilities its control over “internal security” to curb tendencies (in the name of anti-communism) which may be detrimental to their interest.

This present “change” in attitude, is merely an admission of the growing threat of Singapore towards the future of the Alliance and not a threat to the security of the Federation, In the first place, how could Singapore be a security risk to the Federation? Why should Singapore seek to be hostile towards our very relatives?

Tengku’s words as regards the apparent change in attitude are revealing and self-explanatory.

“The division of the two territories might be all right at a moment when Singapore was still under the control of Great Britain, as the security of the islands was in the hands of the UK Government, in other words, in safe hands …”

The intention is thus clear: as long as security is in “safe hands” all would be well, but the moment the people west the internal security into their own hands, we must do something about it.

A way must be found, a “middle course” as the Tengku himself puts in. In this he was aided by the “Socialist” PAP. In fact it was the PAP who first made the approach:

“… the Prime Minister of Singapore felt rather concerned and approached me with some of his problems and difficulties. We made a careful study of the situation and came to the conclusion that the only salvation for Singapore would be in some form of closer economic and constitutional association with the Federation.”

So a freak arrangement was effected.

Why did the PAP fear real re-unification?

The political fortune of the PAP is hinged on anti-colonialism. That was the prime purpose for its formation, and the basic reason for its growth. But once the PAP leadership seeks to ignore the anti- colonial struggle when the task is still incomplete, the leadership of the people went out from its hands. The Hong Lim and Anson by-elections further sealed its fate. From then on its future lies in proscribing the growth of the left which forms the most base of the party. The way out for the PAP is thus not the anti-colonial struggle, but the suppression of the left wing. The PAP as such has no fear of the right – its truculent arrogance against the right in Singapore is well-known. Their concept of a “pan-Malayan base for the socialist movement” in actual fact boils down to the total expulsion of the left which gives it its strength and popularity. Thus we are the alliance with the Right in Malaya, and the fear of the left.

Changes in the objective conditions within the region as a whole have also a part to play in the scheme of things. In this context, the interplay of foreign interests must not be ruled out. British interests within this region are well known. But in recent years, with their decline of British colonialism, American capital in collaboration with German and Japanese capital, are making great headway in undermining traditional British interests within the region.

The developments of objective conditions — the rising mood of anti-colonialism, spell danger to these various interests. In the Borneo territories, it is apparent that the anti-colonisation struggle is gaining momentum. The signs of these are obvious: the traditional British colonial policies of “concessions” by stages, the intensified whipping up of the “communist” bogey. In Laos, a neutralist government is in the helm, and this appears to be totally unacceptable to the East. A vituperative campaign is now being waged through Radio Bangkok against Laos. The rising “trouble” in South Vietnam, where Ngoh Dinh Diem rules with an iron hand and American aid is hardly welcome prospect. The visit of General Taylor to the region was followed up by promise of more aid to check “communist subversion, and aggression.” Further south of Malaya, the Republic of Indonesia is fighting to regain her lost territory, West Irian.

The West viewed all these developments — “trouble spots” as they are called in the Pentagon’s military jargon — with great apprehension. America, in particular has assumed for itself the role of the “champion of freedom” for this region. They schemed to involve whatever countries who would listen to them into the cold war through membership of SEATO, etc. The cardinal feature of the American foreign policy is revolved round “anti-communism”. No one can seriously quarrel with her if she restricts her fanaticism to her own shores and does not attempt to export this fanaticism to other countries. The fact that she cannot do so is precisely because of the economic stakes involved, in the world order which she represents.

Ostensibly, the Federation is not in SEATO, although the Tengku himself is personally well-disposed towards it. He had publicly stated this more than once. The fact that he takes into consideration the feelings of the people towards this is praise-worthy. It is also a clear indication that the people wish to remain non-aligned in this cold war conflict. In actual practice however, Alliance policy has tended towards involvement in the cold war. “We are with the West”, “We belong to the Free World” — the Tengku had said this on several occasions. Urgent trips to theatres of “War” and promises of “moral and material aid” are hardly gestures of a neutralist country.

Merger and Malaysia: a brief overview:

In view of the actual practice of the Alliance’s foreign policy, in the context of these carious developments, not only in Singapore and the Federation, but also within the whole region, the Tengku was forced to make a reassessment of the whole situation.

It must be pointed out that from the very beginning when this “change” of attitude takes place, the two separate issues of merger and Malaysia were never kept distinctly apart. The intention was obviously to cloud the real motivations behind the scheme. The overwhelming desire of our people for real reunification was capitalized upon in order to push forward a freak arrangement.

In the editorial in June-July issue (Vol 3 No. 4) called “Trap of Super Merger” FAJAR had set out to postulate, as a first hypothesis, the probable intentions underlying the sudden reversal of the Alliance’s attitude towards the whole question of reunification. The whole approach was to prolong colonial domination within the “whole” region.

“Merger” (“the right kind”) was not longer objectionable, indeed desirable. Long, involved arguments were propounded as to the desirability of merger. Attempts were made to put up an economic case for merger, Singapore cannot survive without merger, Our unemployment problem will worse unless we merge. Industrialization is not feasible in the limited market we have, and we have no raw materials. We depend on the Federation even on our water supply.

On the political front, the spectre of a Communist Singapore was played up — a Singapore hostile to the Federation — Israel in the East, Little China, and now West Irian. If we do not merge, either Singapore or the Federation will be conquered, Racial strife will be the order of the day.

All these arguments were propounded, and they are still being propounded, with the prime purpose to support the general thesis that the left is anti- merger, and to push through a freak arrangement in the name of “merger.”

The left had never at any time been anti-merger, Right from the time of the division, the left had always fought for the realization of reunification. It was the right wing which had been anti-merger, because reunification was opposed to their interests. There is then no need for a fool-proof case to be put up against the left. The fact that the arguments are being put forth, with such compelling and inflated earnestness presupposes certain things. Might it not the prelude to a freak arrangement to be passed off as merger? In actual fact, the economic care for merger is not as rosy as the PAP would have it. The Federation has its own problems, and merger will not usher in an economic paradise. The political case for argument is based principally on the use of threats. The underlying assumption is of a hostile Singapore. Why should Singapore seek to be hostile one does not know? Why should she have to be hostile for, when especially many of the people across the causeway are our relatives?

The Real Nature of Merger and Malaysia.

It is clear that this sudden “enthusiasm” for merger is not based on a genuine desire for reunification but on finding ways and means to contain the growth of the progressive forces in Singapore, and to deny the people their basic democratic rights. This finds manifestation in the concrete form of the proposed “merger.

Under the proposed arrangement, Singapore is to give up everything she now enjoys, except for labour and education. External defence, internal security, and external affairs, will also go to the Federal Government. There would be two separate citizenships, namely Singapore citizens and Federal citizens. A Singapore citizen who enters into the Federation will be to all intents and purposes an alien. The distinction between the two citizenships will be extended to discriminations in various spheres of activities, e.g. employment opportunities, business undertakings, Since not all Singapore citizens are eligible for Federal citizenship, Singapore’s representation in Parliament would be 15 seats, taking into consideration as well the “autonomy” on labour and education.

Under this arrangement, the first essential of a real reunification is absent: namely political integration. Singapore is to remain a separate political entity from the mainland, with the right solely to send a stipulated number of representatives to the Federal Parliament. Her citizens cannot partake of the normal activities of the country on the same level as Federal Government which finds expression in the ultimate control of “internal security.”

Under Malaysia, this arrangement between the Singapore and the Federation will still apply. The three Borneo states will enter as constituent states to the Federation. Singapore is to enter merely as a “partner.”

One probable fear of the people as regards the Malaysia plan is the likely involvement of the whole area into the cold war. Alliance’s foreign policy has tended to make this more than just a mere possibility. In recent years, Alliance policy on this score had tended to isolate Malaya from the main stream of Asian thinking. Our geographical and political reality remind us that our rightful place belongs to Afro-Asia — with Indonesia, Burma, India, and the newly independent African countries likely Ghanna, Guinea and other countries like Algeria which are struggling to achieve freedom. We are united as President Sukarno said in Bandung in 1955 by the “common destestation of colonialism and racialism.”

This present move will strike at the very root of our associations with these countries, if its basic motivation is involvement in the cold war. It may antagonize our nearest neighbor, Indonesia, We remember too well the period of the Sumatran Revolt when a hostile Singapore gave sanctuary to the rebel leaders. A larger territorial unit, advancing in a different direction, may pose a greater threat to the Indonesian people.

Such a development is against the interests of our peoples who do not seek to involve ourselves into the cold war struggle, and who wish to remain friendly and united with our African and Asian neighbours.

The Tengku said that he wanted to bring freedom to the Borneo territories. This is a laudable aim. If the Tengku is really sincere on this score, he should support the movement for self determination and then let the people decide whether they would like to come in or not.

What should be our attitude?

We should always fight for the realization of a genuine merger, because that is the long standing desires of our people, and also because it is in the long term interests of the people, but we should be wary of any attempt to deny us our democratic rights and to be used as a pawn to fight against our neighbours. In any arrangement for real reunification, it is therefore essential that the colonial power be totally excluded from the decision. The people must make the last decision. It the arrangements we seek are not based on temporary expediency, or depending on the reasonableness” of certain political leaders, then we should have no feat to refer the matter to the people. We should seek to expose any false scheme to be passed off as “merger” — and at the same time, pressed forward to set the basic conditions for a real reunification. These revolve round the question of the eradication of colonialism. The greater the measure of freedom we enjoy, the greater is the colonial influence isolated from the decision. The greater is the likelihood for a real reunification based on equality, progress and democracy.

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M.K. Rajakumar and Poh Soo Kai

Originally published in FAJAR: ORGAN OF THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB, Issue No. 7, Monday, 10th May 1954. Transcribed by Karen Goh

Looming large in Asia once again is the threat of Western aggression. The West has been the aggressor in modern history and Asia has suffered bitterly from Western barbarity. The bitterness of these memories is not easily removed. They will greatly influence Asian thinking for a long time, until the West proves itself worthy of trust and friendship. (more…)

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Poh Soo Kai

Speech at the memorial gathering for Dr. M.K. Rajakumar held at Dewan Canselor, University of Malaya on the 4th January 2009.

I came to know Rajakumar in 1951 when we were in our first year of our medical studies. He was quiet and studious, witty and humorous, sincere and kind. A very compassionate person, much loved by family and friends. He read very fast and his interests extend well beyond the medical curriculum. He had a very good command of English, wrote well and was soon working for the Students’ Union newspaper, the Undergrad, then edited by Lembruggen. He would enlighten me that no news can still be printed as news. (more…)

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Tan Jing Quee

M.K. Rajakumar is a genuine Malaysian hero, a socialist and a patriot. He belongs to that generation who had initiated the struggle for national independence from colonial rule. Quite appropriately perhaps, he was born and grew up in Malacca, the birthplace of modern Malaysia. He completed his secondary education in Malacca High School before proceeding to Singapore in 1950 to enter the medical faculty of the newly established University of Malaya. (more…)

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Edgar Liao

Photographs by Isrizal

Memorial Gathering for Dr. M.K. Rajakumar in Singapore, 14 February 2009.

On a serene, warm Valentine’s Day, over fifty individuals gathered in the Manasseh Mayer Seminar Room in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS to commemorate Dr. M.K. Rajakumar (Rajkumar), who passed away on 22 November 2008, aged 76. A preceding memorial had already been held on 4 January 2009 in the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. (more…)

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Tan Jing Quee

Part 1 (written in November 1999)

Samad Ismail’s career spans three countries over half a century, the breadth and durability of which is stunning. The scope of his activities covers diverse fields as politics, journalism and literature. If it is politics that forms the core of these activities, then journalism has woven them into one composite unity. He was a political journalist par excellence, the best in the country as many of his colleagues readily concede. (more…)

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Sai Siew Min

To write the history of the Communist Underground or the Left-wing movement in post-war Singapore demands more than simply filling in the blanks of the existing dominant narrative with authentic voices of erstwhile participants hitherto denied their right of articulation by the hegemonic Singapore state. It also demands resisting the temptation to flip the dominant story around, championing the cause of the so-called “losers” and turning them into heroes who have arrived decades too late on the historiographical scene in contemporary Singapore. (more…)

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Lim Cheng Tju

Let me begin with my personal journey. I was teaching Singapore history at a junior college a few years back. It was a source-based paper, using primary and secondary materials to teach the history of Singapore from 1945 to 1965 – from the end of the Japanese Occupation to independence. (more…)

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Tan Jing Quee
with a poem by Usman Awang and extracts from Said Zahari‘s memoirs

Photograph of Linda Chen, December 1996, courtesy of Loh Miaw Ping

Linda Chen passed away peacefully on 29th December 2002, four days after she suffered a stroke at her home at Hua Guan Avenue on Christmas Day. She was cremated at Mount Vernon on New Year’s Day. A large crowd of friends and relatives attended the simple ceremony in which her husband Professor Dr Tan Seng Huat and their three children spoke with emotion on Linda the idealist, mother and friend. (more…)

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